Friday, September 30, 2011

My First Day of School

7:00 a.m.  My un-needed alarm goes off.  The 5 o’clock call for prayer from the blaring speakers attached to the mosque directly behind my compound had already done the trick; that and the screaming donkeys, crowing roosters, and women pounding.  Good morning, Africa.

7:10 a.m.  I fire up my gas stovetop to make my daily cup of oatmeal.  After reaching the perfect consistency, I add a little peanut butter and honey, and think to myself that I can happily eat this for two years.  It’s heavenly.

7:40 a.m.  Time for my first day of school outfit.  It’s nothing too fancy, just a flowered wrap skirt I had made in training village with a matching tika (head wrap).  I put on my new necklace that was sent from my cousin.  It’s leather braided adorned with a globe next to a peace sign.  World Peace.  I love it.  I’m ready.
"World Peace"  Thank you, Lauren!
8:00 a.m.  I make my way outside for my morning greetings turning more heads than usual in my yirame (wrap skirt).  “An wujam.  Hotora ma wuyi?”  Here we go…

8:10 a.m. I notice Bintu, my 16-year-old host sister, pounding and wonder what the deal is.  Just yesterday she had told me she was going to school, and that she was going to be in grade 5.

“Bintu, I thought you were going to school,” I say with a puzzled look on my face.
“I have no uniform.”
“You can’t go to school without a uniform?”
“I don’t go.  I have no uniform,” she repeats.
“Why don’t you have a uniform?”
“Money.  The money is no good.”

Hmm… I know this isn’t the case.  I see Bintu get dolled up on a nightly basis to make her appearance at the football games.  Then they serve free juice with condensed milk to the football players at half time.  They certainly have enough money for a uniform, and Bintu is always the one coming to me with a notebook asking me to teach her, so I know she wants to be there.  I need to get to the bottom of this.

8:15 a.m. Those in uniform gather around me. ONLY FOUR OF YOU!?!?!  What?!?!  There are a bizillion kids in my compound and only four are going to school???  
Nyima, Binta, Mo Mo, and Hawa, my siblings
8:20 a.m. We arrive at school and the kids take off in different directions as I go to greet the 3 out of 12 teachers that have reported for duty.  I’m informed the head master has not arrived.  This has been an on-going issue. 

The headmaster, who I met at the supervisor workshop and who I’ve been in touch with the most has been moved from Demba Kunda to another school by the ministry of education.  He doesn’t want to go, nor does the community want him to leave so he is trying to fight it.  However, in the meantime, this means that no one is in charge at the school.  I’m not sure where the headmaster that was assigned to our school is, but he’s not here, so that means it’s more like a zoo than a school.

8:25 a.m. I unlock the library to retrieve a chair to sit down next to a second year teacher who is finishing his credential so he can become a qualified teacher.  As I’m exiting the library another teacher makes his way over to peak in, and then says, “Isa, come.”  He wants me to know that I should keep the windows locked when I’m not there or else kids will reach in and tamper or possibly steal the books.  Something about the way he states it makes me become a bit defensive.  As I look over to the currently locked windows I tell him, “Yes, I know that’s why I have them locked right now.”  He responds, “Yes, but you being a woman, you might forget.” 

8:35 a.m. Students form lines in their grade levels from shortest to tallest and the morning assembly begins.  Most of the children are glancing at the strange toubab in the back rather than listening to the facts that there is no headmaster, and that there are only 3 teachers.  After they briefly introduce me, the strange toubab, the students are instructed to make their way to their classrooms and help clean up the filth that has collected over the summer.  I watch kids take off in all directions, and can’t imagine that this going to go well.

8:45 a.m.  I peak into the ECD (Early Childhood Development) classroom to find 30 plus 4 year olds unattended.  Holy chaos.  Some are crying, probably because of previously being whacked by another, while others climb on the limited furniture in the room.

9:00 a.m.  Children are littered all over the place.  One teacher sits as another directs the older schoolgirls to start sweeping the courtyard. 

9:15 a.m.  The second year teacher walks over to me and says, “Isa, let’s have breakfast.”  I politely decline his offer.  I already ate breakfast.  In America, we generally do that before we come to school, unless our school is on a special program where the students eat breakfast in school, but that’s not the case here. 

9:20 a.m.  With children still wandering all over the place, I glance down to the world peace necklace my cousin sent and sigh.  There sure is a lot of work to be done in this world.

9:35 a.m.  Boys start joining in on the cleaning by weeding the garden beds.

9:45 a.m.  I’m elated to see Amara and Fatoumata, two more children from my compound, show up.  I ask Amara to show me his classroom by reaching for his little hand and showing him I want him to lead me.  He takes me to the ECD classroom, and I have to fight every urge in my body to get the class together and start teaching them.  I’m here to observe.  I don’t want to step on any toes, and I need to talk to the headmaster about my role in the school before getting down to business.  If only we had a headmaster…
9:48 a.m.  It sounds like someone is tearing something down in the grade 2 room.  I hear loud banging noises coming from that direction.  I’m afraid to go see what’s happening.  I see the second year teacher walk back onto school grounds.  He must be done with his breakfast.

9:52 a.m.  The teacher that led the morning assembly rings the school bell and orders the students to return to their classrooms.  A mad rush is made by some, while others take their time making their way back to their room where no one awaits them. 

10:00 a.m.  The second year teacher and the other 2 teachers that have reported to school begin their classes.   Grade 5 and 6 are combined into one classroom since the grade 6 teacher isn’t there.  The two rooms of ECD students, grade 1B, and grade 2 and 3 are still unattended. 

10:20 a.m.  Maha, Amara’s father, shows up on his motorbike and decides to take Amara home since school isn’t really going on.  He doesn’t seem surprised or upset by this.  He is certain that tomorrow there will be school.  I inquire about Bintu and it seems as though not having a uniform is not the problem.  From my conversation with Maha, I gather that Bintu’s role in the compound is to work, so although she has the desire to learn, she is stuck pounding, sweeping, and cooking.  

10:30 a.m.  I decide that I’ve seen enough.  I head home contemplating my next steps.  I’ve certainly got some adjusting to do, but can clearly see that I can be used here.  Up next... choosing battles.

1 comment:

  1. After 8 weeks of school, I FINALLY have a day off to read your posts. I am enjoying every last thought and detail. I love you, Lacy!